search for deer scrapes

The Search for Scrapes

Scott Bestul |

Scrapes have received a bad rap in recent years. Some of this comes from science; studies conducted by University of Georgia researchers indicate that the vast majority of buck visits to scrapes occurs at night. Couple this with hunter experience—how many times have you heard “I sat on that hot scrape and never saw a thing” in your life?—and you’ve got a recipe for no respect.

Here’s my take on the subject. First, I’ve been skunked sitting on scrapes (as well as rubs, trails, funnels, and food sources), but I’ve also had some awesome encounters over them as well. Second, I don’t care if every visit a buck made to a scrape for the rest of time was nocturnal…Scrapes are still buck-only sign that reveal a ton about a) the number and quality of bucks in an area, b) general areas where bucks spend their time, and c) specific routes bucks use to travel. In my book, that’s important stuff to know.

So, finding scrapes is an important item on my spring scouting agenda. While I try to mark on a map or aerial photo (more on that next week) every scrape I find, I focus my search on three main scrape types and/or locations:

*Staging area scrapes: Staging areas are patches of thick cover just off a main food source that bucks are reluctant to enter during daylight, such as a field/ food plot or a large oak flat. But a buck will hit a staging area—often with plenty of shooting light to spare—and dally around until they feel safe to feed. While they wait, bucks will rub, scrape and even spar, and the sign will be obvious. Staging areas are among my favorite afternoon stand sites.

* Travel route scrapes: Logging roads are common in many of my hunting areas, and the soft dirt beneath them is prime scraping material for bucks. When I find a woods road peppered with scrapes, I know I’ve found a path where bucks feel comfortable walking, usually during daylight.

*Funnel area scrapes: My experience indicates that when severe terrain forces a buck to walk through a certain spot (like the ridge saddle in the photo), that buck feels vulnerable and usually walks through in a hurry. But on either side of that funnel, bucks often pause and rub or scrape. When I find a funnel that is heavily scraped on either side, I know I’ve found a prime travel route.

Again, I believe every scrape I find is important; it may occur in poor area to hunt (such as a tight valley bottom with fickle winds) or in a spot where a buck may only visit at night (an exposed edge of a field). But that scrape is telling me something about the buck that made it…and ignoring that message is not an option.